A collaborative network must define partner guidelines and principles that will both support the partner network and provide the methods to manage the partner network.  These principles and guidelines must focus on meeting the needs of the partners in achieving value over the long term.   The key value of the network is that benefits can be more stable over a longer period of time and the underlying costs of achieving these long term benefits are shared across the network.  I am very careful to use the term network because it defines the how the group will be managed in a way that is inclusive of the objectives of all of the partners and not just one or two.  This foundation is important to the long term success of the collaborative network. 

The guidelines then provide the framework to interact with the other partners and provides a means to arbitrate differences in opinion.  These are both important  factors in both building the network and also maintaining the network.  It is unreasonable to believe that there will never be a difference of opinion with all of the interactions between all of the partners.  It is very important to the success of the network that each partner, or member, of the network clearly understand these guidelines and framework for interaction.  These partner guidelines then are followed and even policed by the network partners to ensure fair and unbiased treatment in the network proceedings and actions.  In addition, defining these guidelines up front, and even more important obtaining a formal acceptance of the guidelines by each member when the enter the network is important to the success of the guidelines and the strength of the framework.

This is not to say that everyone in the network will realize the same level of benefits for all of the objectives and all of the time.  Due to the fact that the level of benefits will fluctuate, it is even more important that you have clear guidelines defined to ensure that each network partner understands the objectives and has had a chance to influence and accept the direction.  It is important that the network truly collaborates in execution and delivery of the objectives, but collaboration does not mean that everyone must agree, or that everyone will benefit at the same level from each of the objectives.  The important aspect is that every member has the opportunity to participate in the decision making process and especially the prioritization process. 

Each collaborative network must first define the principles and guidelines when initially starting the network and this must be a group exercise that includes all of the partners.  Each network is different and because of this there are different roles and different priorities that are important to the network.  The guidelines must start from the perspective of the initial network members and then as new members join the network the guidelines must be reviewed for any modifications or improvements based on the input from new members.   


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?